Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Passing on Adventure

The other day a friend and I got into a debate about the “Adventure Pass.” For those of you who are not in the know, the “Adventure Pass” is a program adopted by several southern California National Forests that requires forest users to purchase a “pass” ($5 per day or $35 annually) for the privilege of parking an automobile in the national forest. Given the geography, development patterns, and lack of viable public transportation options, driving to the affected national forests is the only practical method of getting there for most folks. As a result, the “Adventure Pass” effectively functions as an additional fee imposed for the use of your national forests. The program began as a pilot, but has predictably become a permanent fixture of the national forest landscape, at least in the Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland National Forests.

I am virulently opposed to the “Adventure” Pass for a variety of reasons. One of the things that government should do with our tax dollars is provide and maintain public space without imposing additional “user” fees, whether that space is a national forest or a municipal park. Programs which force, under threat of substantial monetary penalties, those who use public facilities (whether by choice or out of necessity) to pay an additional fee for that use is nothing but a tip of the hat to the selfish ideology, often espoused by those who have already benefitted from one or more public institutions or programs, that “no one but me should gain benefit from my tax dollars.”

Beyond that, the Adventure Pass program, when coupled with the “war on drugs,” has caused unintended (or is that intended?) collateral damage. Whereas at one time forest rangers were trained naturalists who would hike the trails focusing on the flora and fauna of the forest, now they are nothing more than glorified traffic cops and vice officers who drive the roads prowling for parking fees and collars.

My friend, on the other hand, is a big supporter of the Adventure Pass. He views the pass as a magnanimous and unique opportunity to contribute additional dollars to the public fisc so that he can “share” the forest experience with others. Although I think that position silly, it is the catalyst for the additional fee generating schemes that I am proposing here today. This, of course, is not an exclusive list of possible programs that can be modeled after the Adventure Pass program, but it’s a good start and is eminently doable given the current political climate in the country.

  • The Love Pass- this is a $35 annual fee that will imposed by each municipality on each tennis player for the use of public tennis courts. The fees collected will be used to pay for the cost of lights, nets, general maintenance, and a Court Officer who will be deputized and will carry both a loaded weapon and pepper spray. The Officer will be tasked with checking players for Love Passes, writing tickets to Love Pass scofflaws, keeping order on the courts, and searching users at whim and without probable cause for contraband. All Court Officers will be recruited from the local Sheriff's Department and will be required to have absolutely no knowledge of, or interest in tennis.

  • The Velo Pass- this is a $35 annual fee that will be imposed by every municipality upon each road bike rider for the privilege of riding a bicycle on city maintained streets. The fee will be used to defray the cost of bike lanes that are now paid for principally by motorists. Significant monetary penalties for non-compliance will apply.

  • The Metro Pass- this new $35 annual fee above and beyond the basic ticket cost will be charged to all public transportation users to defray the costs of public transportation now being subsidized by non-public transportation user tax dollars. A separate fee will be imposed by each transportation authority, meaning that users will need a separate Metro Pass for buses and commuter rails. There will be no exceptions or discounts for the economically disadvantaged who are supping at the public transportation trough, but a combined bus/rail Metro Pass will be available at the discounted rate of $65.

  • The Reading Pass- this is a new $35 annual fees assessed against all public library users. The fees will be used to cover the cost of acquiring knowledge from a taxpayer funded library facility. It will also fund a Reading Enforcement Agent whose primary function will be to check for Reading Passes and to write tickets to those attempting to ride the knowledge coattails of other paying patrons. The fee will be assessed against each library patron, but a family pass will be available at the rate of $30 per family member.

  • The Play Pass- this is a $35 annual fee that will be assessed by each municipality and/or county against all public park users for the privilege of stepping foot in the public parks. Note that this fee will be separate and distinct from the annual Love Pass which will assessed separately. It is also separate and distinct from the Softball Pass (a per player fee, not a per team fee), the Soccer Pass (again, per player), the Skate Pass (a combined skateboard and roller-blading pass will be available for $65), and a general Lolligagging Pass that applies to all other park activities. Special kiosks, funded by Play Pass fees, will be constructed at each park entrance and staffed by enforcement agents who will check users for Play Passes before park entrance is granted.

  • The Sand and Surf Pass- this is a $35 annual fee that will be charged to all public beach users for the privilege of stepping foot on the public beaches. Note that this fee will be in addition to applicable parking, day use, and camping fees. Armed enforcement agents will strategically occupy existing lifeguard towers so that they can apprehend, with force if necessary, moochers and freeloaders who attempt to enjoy the beach without paying their fair share.

  • And finally, the Dog Shit Pass- this is a $35 annual fee (in addition to licensing fees) that will be assessed against dog owners for the privilege of walking a canine on public property. The fee will fund dog parks, fecal clean up, and a Dog Shit Enforcement Agent who will have the authority to club dog owners into submission if they fail to clean up after their pooch. Please note the each municipality will require its own Dog Shit Pass so if you plan on traveling with your dog, your annual contributions to Dog Shit Passes may be significantly higher than just $35.
These are just a few of the new fees, modeled after the very popular and successful Adventure Pass, that I think could be proposed to public officials in the very near future. However, public facilities users should not fret about the potential for having to pay these additional new fees as all money collected will be deposited into the public fisc. Thus, those who pay these fees can rest comfortably in the knowledge that they are both carrying their own substantial weight and sharing our public facilities with other users.